By Cheryl Jean-Paul

Getting to the next level….here are a few things to consider if you are
an athlete wanting to continue playing ball at the next level.

In my last few weeks as High Performance Coach I’ve figured out how I
could give some last words of advice to the young basketball players in
this province. I know how amazing the different experiences I’ve had as a
high school and university athlete, as well as being a university
assistant coach and a college and provincial team head coach have been,
and that’s something that I hope every athlete can have an opportunity
to experience

I’ve been able to ask these questions to current college and university coaches as well as new and veteran athletes and here are some of their responses:

1. Should you or did you know what you wanted to take in school before you started looking at university/college programs?

Athletes’ perspective: Most of the athletes had no idea what they wanted to do in school, weren’t 100% sure or changed programs during the course of their university careers. Their opinion was that choosing a school that provided a variety of programs and the flexibility to try different areas of academics to explore their options worked best for them. Of course, if you do know exactly what you want to take, don’t take the coach’s word for it that the school offers the program. Do your homework and look into it yourself. Also, know that if you “want to be a doctor” or take some other master’s or post-graduate studies, you have to complete a bachelor’s degree first which can be completed during your 5 years of athletic eligibility.

Coaches’ perspective: Most coaches are aware of the fact that a small minority of student athletes actually know what they want to take. Their suggestion is that your first year should be general studies to explore interests and that the school you choose should encourage you and provide you with the freedom of having different options.

2. What should you look for in the program that you’d like to play for or that is recruiting you?

Athletes’ perspective: There were 2 major components to the athletes’ decisions: the head coach and the potential future teammates.

  • play for someone who will give you an opportunity to challenge yourself (on and off the court, as an athlete, student and citizen);

  • coach needs to be genuinely interested in making you a better player not just putting you in a system

  • coach knew what they were talking about basketball wise in terms of teaching the style you could see yourself playing and they were clear on expectations

  • your teammates will become your family so it’s important that you get along

  • will they make you better? You need to play against the best to be the best.

Coaches’ perspective: - Get a feel for the coach that you’ll be playing for. Go to games and sit behind the bench and watch how they interact with their athletes. On recruiting trips watch practices not just pre-game shoots. Visit the school more than once if possible. Look at the current roster and be aware of the size and make-up. Are there a lot of graduating 4th and 5th year athletes or a lot of first years? Have a lot of athletes quit before reaching 3rd, 4th and 5th years? How many red-shirts? How many players in the position you are being recruited for?


3. Is it tough leaving home?

Most of the athletes had a tough time leaving, partly because they were no longer living at home (which is an adjustment at any point) and partly because they were saying good-bye to family, but for the most part, the time commitment at the next level is so great that there wasn’t really a lot of time to think about it. Making new friends, experiencing new things especially if you move to another part of the country…as one athlete put it, it became “something I needed to do to mature and become more independent.” It all depends on who you are!


4. How do I approach schools that interest me? What are they looking for?

Different athletes had different experiences with this. A lot of the athletes had club coaches and high school coaches that initiated conversations with the programs the athletes were showing interest in. Those coaches were able to accurately explain what type of player they were and how they might fit into the prospective programs.

Coaches are looking for athletes that take initiative in regards to their future. Don’t sit around at home expecting someone to break down the front door. Contact the coach and send them a tape – and not just a highlight reel. Also send them an entire game and a schedule of future games if they are in your area or if you are going to be in a tournament in their area. Also, don’t leave it to the last minute. If you are in grade 12 and approach a coach with 1 game left in your high school season, don’t expect them to be able to drop everything to come out and watch you. “Get in the driver’s seat of your future” as one coach put it. Make sure you provide them with contact information for someone who can speak to your skill level: high school coach, club coach, provincial team coach…IE. Name, organization, number, e-mail address and then make sure you let that person know to expect a call. Follow-up if you haven’t heard back! Remember that coaches, during their seasons, are very busy people!!



5. How do I interpret what a coach/recruiter is telling me?

This can be a tough one. As one athlete put it, you need to “determine what you want to hear vs. what you need to hear” in terms of finding the right fit for you and for the program. If they are looking for a point guard, is that a position that you feel you can compete for? The athletes who have played a few years now understand that coaches’ often recruit based on “potential”. What does that mean? That means that even if you are recruited, you still have to earn everything you are given – especially minutes!

From a coach’s standpoint be careful of a program that is promising you the world. Starting position, playing time, “extra” money, guarantees….Understand that there is an adjustment period for any 1st year athlete, especially if you are joining an established program. In most programs, playing time is determined based on what happens once the roster is finalized and the team is competing in practice.

Here are some direct quotes from some of the athletes and coaches that have graciously given their time and thoughts:

Coach: Don’t try to con the coach into thinking you are different from who you really are!

Athlete: Have your priorities set when making a decision between schools – school, team, city, cost...

Coach: Once you know what you value and want, it is easier to take the initiative and make contact with the programs/schools that fit your goals and aspirations.

Athlete: Enjoy the recruiting process. You only get to be recruited once so soak it in and don’t be in a rush to make a decision. (And once you get there) be prepared to work hard.

Athlete: Ask a lot of questions at the start so your decision is already made and easy and educated as possible.

Athlete: [Playing ball at the next level] requires a lot of your time to do it - be prepared to put in hard work every day, just to be fully committed.

Athlete: You need to be dedicated, be prepared to get yelled at and figure out how to handle constructive criticism.

Coach: Consider the lifestyle in the community of a university. At university a student develops profile, contacts and future opportunities. It is wise to consider where you would like to establish contacts for your future careers.

Athlete: You need to have strong time management skills.

Athlete: Coaches’ jobs rely on their ability to perform so if you don’t take the responsibility for your game and continue to work its not your right to get to play it’s a privilege that they have the power to control.

Last words by CJP:

Remember that there are a lot of people out there who have been where you are! Use them as a resource in making your decisions but when it comes down to it, it’s your life that you will have to wake up to every morning. Make sure this is something that you want to commit to 100% even when things aren’t going well. GOOD LUCK and hopefully we’ll see some of you ballplayers in a college or university jersey in the near future!

Subscribe to Email Newsletter
Share this article to...